You love to write. You’ve been scribbling poems or stories in notebooks and on napkins since you were a kid. Maybe you worked on the school newspaper or do technical writing for your job now. Maybe you already have a book (or multiple books) published. Either way, you want to learn more. You want an MFA.
So, the research begins. Do you go for a traditional studio degree, which requires you to become a full-time student and possibly relocate for two to three years, or a low-residency MFA where you meet up for residencies with faculty and your fellow students and then do the rest of your work from home? And if you decide to go with a low-residency, how do you choose which one, and what is it really like?
This is where we come in. We understand that this is a big decision, that you’re taking a leap of faith when you choose to pursue an MFA, choose a school, begin a new chapter in your life (have I exhausted all the cliches in the world yet?). That’s why we try to offer options for those potential students that are still on the fence. If you want to get a feel for a residency at Converse (there are two a year, January and June, ten days each) without actually registering as a student, we offer something we call an “Immersion Residency,” where you attend a residency, participate in workshop, listen to lectures and readings, and basically do everything the other students are doing except for making a semester plan or earning academic credit. We also offer Lecture Passes (there are full and half passes), that give you the opportunity to attend craft lectures from our exceptional faculty in all genres.
These are amazing opportunities to dig in and live like an MFA student for ten days, and these not-for-credit options are not offered at every MFA program. But even with these sneak peeks, you may still be curious about what the rest of the semester is really like. How much reading and writing is required? How do I communicate with my faculty mentor? And while many of these questions can and will be answered at the residencies, I think it’s helpful to get a glimpse into some pieces of real-life semester plans. If you follow us on Instagram, you’ll know we’ve been doing a series called #readlikeanmfastudent. We have featured books that were actually assigned to students in previous semesters and give you an idea of the kind of reading you’d actually be doing. Of course, there are response papers and actual writing in your genre due over the five semester packets, but it seemed like it might be fun and informative to take a look at the wide breadth of the readings assigned to students. So here goes.
Several of the books assigned for your semester reading list will include books on the craft of writing.
Whether you write fiction, nonfiction, YA, or poetry, you’ll be assigned several books each semester that take a deep dive into the craft of writing. You will learn how to take apart what you read in your genre, analyze it , and determine what techniques the author used to accomplish specific structures/effects/moods/etc.
This is the fun part. You and your faculty mentor will sit down together to create your reading list of books in your particular genre. Which books you choose are often partially determined by what you are writing or a particular area in your writing where you would like to improve. Are you working on a collection of linked short stories? Then you may choose several of these as part of your reading plan. Do you write narrative-style poetry? Your faculty mentor will be able to recommend tons of great books that use that structure/style. The great part is that, unlike when you’re an undergrad and you’re at the mercy of whatever your professor assigns, you will work with your faculty mentor to choose books that you want to read.
Critical Paper Reading
In our program, every third semester student writes a critical paper. Maybe you want to focus on some specific area of craft within your genre. Or perhaps you’re interested in a particular trend or element that you find interesting. Either way, you’ll be constructing a reading list that furthers your research for this project. Here are two examples from our #readlikeanmfastudent Instagram series.
Perhaps you’d like to read everything written by one specific author and then analyze an element of their writing.
Or maybe you’re interested in writing that is from a specific geographical area and would like to take a deep dive into the literature of that people and place. The above photo shows a reading list of books that are either written by Appalachian writers, set in Appalachian settings, or in most cases, both.
Whatever direction you decide to take in your critical paper, it’s a fun opportunity to explore a topic that you are passionate about. Your subject is not dictated to you by your faculty mentor, which makes the hours of research and reading seem more like fun and less like academic drudgery.
Meet & Greet Info Session
Does all this targeted reading and the writing that results from it sound like the kind of thing you’re looking for? Then come by during the upcoming January Residency for an Information Session where you can meet some of the faculty, ask questions, and get a feel for the Converse College Campus. Join us on Saturday, January 6, 2018, from 3:30-4:30 pm in the Montgomery Building’s Barnet Room. We would love the chance to meet you and answer any and all questions you may have about any aspect of the program, from application/acceptance to the Summer/Fall semester, to the possibility of joining us for an Immersion Residency or Lecture Pass. Here’s hoping we see you there.